Christians in Syria are facing a tough Christmas as many are still homeless and relying on food packages to make it to the end of each month, according to anti-persecution charity Open Doors
During winter temperatures in Syria drop below freezing. Without the support of local churches people will have to decide between buying food or fuel to heat their homes.
Pastor Abdalla, a local church partner of Open Doors who leads a church in Aleppo, said:
“There are not enough jobs and the needs of the family are not being met in terms of schools and rent for apartments, but the church is playing her part in helping these families.” Prices have risen ten times since the crisis began. Pastor Abdalla has observed that: “Some organisations have reduced the amount that they give, but the need is still there.”
Open Doors CEO Henrietta Blyth said:
“As Prince Charles has highlighted the need to support Christians in the Middle East and has brought persecution and exclusion of Christians in the birthplace of Christianity to the fore, we are working hard to provide practical support of food, jobs and educational support for children to help Christians stay, survive and shine in the Middle East.
“Meeting Prince Charles before the service, he and Christian leaders from the Middle East were emphatic that, for Christians to be able to return, the devastated areas must be rebuilt and that Christians must feel safe. Young Christians must feel that they have a role to play in their country and that they can be part of its leadership. Church leaders reported that aid does not get through to minorities and urged the UK Government to do more to ensure aid goes directly to vulnerable minorities.”
Henrietta Blyth continued:
“Attending the service at Westminster Abbey left me humbled, inspired and more than ever convinced of the vital importance of Open Doors’ work directly supporting Christians through our Hope for the Middle East campaign, and of the need to work and pray harder so that we can do more to help our fellow Christians in their time of need.”
Open Doors has launched an appeal for food aid and continues to raise funds to provide Christians with micro-loans to set up new businesses so that families have a sustainable future. Money has also been raised to rebuild villages in Iraq’s Nineveh plains with over 1,000 Christians returning in the last year, and to rebuild houses in Homs and other parts of Syria. This year every £1 donated is being doubled by some long-standing supporters making donations even more effective.
Open Doors currently provides aid such as food and medicines for 12,000 families in Syria every month. This is distributed through Centres of Hope, hosted by local churches.
Pastor Abdalla’s city, Aleppo, is a city of contrasts; in some neighbourhoods shops and restaurants are open. Other areas of the city are destroyed and full of debris. The churches in Aleppo are supporting their community. Open Doors is standing side by side with them.
“Once a car exploded near me. Also my daughter had four bombs go off in her school and four children died,”
said Pastor Abdalla.
“Even though the bombs were falling around the building every day, we didn’t stop.
“We are beginning to rebuild everything,” Pastor Abdalla said. “Even though the damage is big and huge, it is obvious to everyone there that life and reconciliation is coming back to Aleppo.”
Open Doors is committed to supporting Christians in Syria for as long as it takes with a long term plan to open 60 Centres of Hope across Syria by 2020 which will distribute aid, medicine and provide trauma counselling and holistic care.
Persecution against Christians in Syria mainly comes from Islamic extremists. While the self-proclaimed Islamic State holds less territory in Syria than it did before, they still control some areas and carry out revenge attacks in others.
Other Islamic extremist groups also operate within Syria. Church leaders are a particular target, especially those from traditional denominations as they are often recognisable by their clothing. Despite this, many church leaders have chosen to stay in Syria to serve their communities – many of those who remain in Syria are the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and those in need of medical care.